Category Archives: Tools and Test Equipment

Analog Electronics RF Tindie Tools and Test Equipment

Just in! and the start on a VSWR bridge

I’ve been working on little bits over the last week or two, nothing notable but filling up my notebook with plenty of “lessons-learned”. For instance I decided I’m no good as estimating how many uH my home-made inductors are. I purchased a BK Precision 879B LCR meter to confirm that fact. A side-bonus was I went through all my caps and could test my home-brew ESR meter vs. the ESR meter built into the 879B and I now have a fair amount of capacitors that are going to the garbage. No more saving scrapped caps for me. I was working on an oscillator the other day.. well I winged the inductor.. not a wiggle out of the oscillator when finished, that’s what finally made me break down and buy the meter..

A crystal oscillator.. that doesn't oscillate
A crystal oscillator.. that doesn’t oscillate

Today I sat down at the bench and I started working on a project I have had on the board for a while (it’s a surprise); for this piece I made a 50 Ohm VSWR interface; then I threw it into a test jig and checked it out. It actually worked pretty solid. I got some 1 watt SMD resistors off an eBay purchased of some 49.9 ohm 0805 SMD resistors I ordered. The guy just randomly threw in 10 1-watt 49.9 ohm resistors… nice guy. I tested it up to 500MHz but after that I had a bit of noise measuring reverse power.. that’s okay though for me. Interestingly I found with my SA I have a pretty solid local noise source at 90.9, some local station I’m sure.  If you’re interested in making your own check out this guy’s website. He has a basic schematic of a bridge that is functionally equivalent to mine it seems. (a bridge with 3 resistors.. not a brain buster).


A little home made VSWR bridge for an upcoming project..
A little home made VSWR bridge for an upcoming project..

So after some success I decided it was time to get to mail. Yesterday I got a packages from the @tymkrs and Jason at AtomSoftTech.

Jason stuffed a box with some goodies I ordered and extras (thanks Jason!) The two most notable items of the bunch is the breadboard PIC buddy and the ESP8266 breakout board. The ESP board was flawless, but after use of BB PIC buddy I have ideas for v2. Now let me make it clear I saw this design before it went to the fab and I missed stuff that seems now obvious.. totally my bad.

Is it functional? Yep.. What would I recommend for changes?

Make the power side a little longer and have the USB jack coming in on the side.. if the PICKit2 is plugged in you can’t use the USB connector. Also while the PIC Kit 2 works okay I think pushing it a 1/2 inch away from the RJ12 jack for the ICD would make the insertion a little more solid. Nice product though.. this is certainly a new breadboard-fav. Jason is selling these for too cheap on Tindie. Get it before he gets smart and raises his price 🙂

The BB PIC Buddy and ESP8266 breakout board
The BB PIC Buddy and ESP8266 breakout board

There are some other items from AST as well but I’ll mention them later on. I had purchased two items from the @tymkrs ; the new Analog Shift Kit and the new SMD LM386 audio amplifier “Amplify Me”. The Amplify Me board works as expected, I checked out the PDIP version of this some time back ago, I’m not going to hunt for the post though, it’s a LM386 audio amp, kind of a no-brainer. I though of one change for future versions of this product that might have been a little more user friendly. It’d be nice if they made the product just a few more tenths of inches wide and brought that PCB 3.5mm jack out away and further back (back in reference to the photo below). I would make the jack so that it was level with a panel if you mounted the potentiometer into a panel. I don’t think it would add too much to board coast but it wold make this much easier to integrate into projects. As it is though, the potentiometer doesn’t have to be soldered into the board (it doesn’t come soldered) so it would be easier enough to work around. I still find it shocking to get a battery included in an order! It’s the little things @tymkrs!

Updated @tymkrs SMD LM386 Amplify Me
Updated @tymkrs SMD LM386 Amplify Me

No time to get to the Analog Shift kit today, I’ll save that for the future.

I have a lot more Analog bits I’m working on in the near future; I hope to get some of them mentioned here.

Electronics LiPo Tools and Test Equipment

Breadboard Buddy Pro on the bench

I got a great gift in the mail yesterday! I sneak preview of the up coming Breadboard Buddy Pro. This one is a development board but it looks good and worked even better.

New breadboard buddy with a LiPo battery interface for the hardware hacker on the go!
New breadboard buddy with a LiPo battery interface for the hardware hacker on the go!

I am working on a little project that reads data from Maxim 1-wire temperature sensors (coming soon!) so I put the new BBB into action. The LiPo charger seemed to work just fine.. power was all good. The only thing that I noticed, and honestly I haven’t read the documentation on AdamSoftTech’s Tindie store site, when running on the battery the power supply will only provide 3.3V, not 5.0; the 5.0V rail goes dark .. so no boost on board but in reality that’s not a surprise as there isn’t any big inductors sitting on the PCB.

This product is definitely going into my electronics hobbyist go-bag! My favorite feature on this new product is the handy LiPo battery connector making development on the road easy. Whenever I’m on a trip for training, or working out-of-town I enjoy bringing a few basics to work on some project I’ve had back-burnered but can be worked on by breadboard. I like to pack light and this tool helps out greatly.

Besides the LiPo battery option, battery is not included, I really like the fact he crammed a USB-serial bridge on a power supply board. The RX/TX lights are nice and I imagine for people putting a chip in board the reset button is handy. I use plug-in dev boards and almost everyone puts a reset button on those. I used both 5V then switched to 3.3V .. more than enough current at 500mA of course.

The BBB Pro is also pretty robust: In a silly mistake I accidentally put my logic analyzer ground on the 5V plane.. well the BBB Pro folded back and protected itself.. before it did that though it delivered enough current to melt down my micrograbber…  I’m very thankful I caught it quickly and my LA, USB ports and the BBB Pro are all just fine. The clip was replaced and made its way into my Bag Of Shame. The micrograbber will fit in well within the BOS, which includes such things as an 18F26K22 I melted down.. a handful of MOSFETs (a bag favorite), and assorted other parts I’ve cooked making dumb mistakes.

On the photo above you also notice two new breadboard favorites:

The tinyLEDx4 from AtomSoftTech and a board I made recently for attaching jumpers for my scope and logic analyzer. I sent in a sample and of course Jason (with AST) came up with a revised version of the clip holder which was better designed than mine in a few minutes.. thankfully I don’t do this for a living! 😀

Tools and Test Equipment

Weller WD1001 and other updates

I’ll get the “other” updates out-of-the-way before talking about my new love! I’ve collected a solid number of PIC development boards over the last couple years and in about 3-4 weeks I’m going to do a review over what I have collected and what I’ve liked and disliked about them. Do you have any suggestions on a board I just can not miss? I am not sponsored, nor do I collect any money from blogging so I’m not going to buy dozens but I’d be willing to buy a few additional boards if someone has been holding off on pulling the trigger on a purchase. I’m not much of a “review” type person but I’m passionate about development boards for prototyping and I would hope my review would help give someone something to think about before purchasing something for their first or second project; PIC based or not. E-mail away!

It’s a changing of the guard on my bench. My beloved EC1002 is being replaced by the WD1001. It took me a while to decide on the WD1 platform. I decided on the WD1001 over the WD1002 strictly based on the pencil. The WMP appears to be more helpful for small circuit soldering. The WD1 base is very robust, it could be used as a weapon in a pinch. They cord to the pencil appears like it’s made from something that’s near impossible to tangle and is very flexible. The stand… a dream. The only thing it was missing out of the box was a connector to ground it. There is a base connector attachment which appears to be a 1/8″ mono tip/sleeve audio-type jack. I’ll just have to build something myself. Otherwise I’m in love with the purchase.

Weller WD1001 boxed

@whixr was really trying to sell me on the Hakko FX-888… he is in love with his. I did consider the purchase despite feeling like the blue/yellow made it difficult for me to take it seriously as a tool. They have a new silver version; Perhaps I’ll buy one to test out and send to my brother. I was also seriously considering Metcal.. but after a little I can tell I’ll have no regrets with the WD1002.

Old and New

Adam Fabio was definitely on team-Metcal and he just about had me sold. It all boiled down to a review of the WD1001 on YouTube and how agile that pencil is.

Check out how close you are to the work with that WMP handle! I really feel in control.

The handle and tip perfect for up-close small work!


Not the most exciting thing in the world, but a good iron really makes like easier. I put my time in with 25 and 35 watt wall corded pencils. The old radio shack models, even the 35W weller… nothing beats a nice thermostatically controlled station.